On the top of the primary dot-com bubble, many patent functions have been filed that took common ideas and put them on the Internet. This month’s silly patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,738,155 (“the ‘155 patent”), is an effective instance of that development.
The patent is titled “System and technique of offering publishing and printing companies through a communications community.” Typically, it pertains to a “printing and publishing system” that gives “workflow companies…utilizing a communication community.” The unique utility was filed in 1999, and the patent issued in 2004.
The ‘155 patent has a big litigation historical past. Beginning in 2013, its proprietor CTP Improvements, LLC, filed over 50 lawsuits alleging infringement, and told a court it meant to file as many as 200 further instances. CTP claimed [PDF] that infringement of its patent was “ubiquitous” by the printing and graphic communications business.
In response to CTP’s claims of infringement, a number of defendants challenged the patent on the Patent Workplace, utilizing a process referred to as “inter partes assessment” (or “IPR” for brief). The IPR process permits third events to argue to the Patent Workplace patent should not have been granted as a result of what was claimed within the patent was both recognized or apparent (two necessities for being awarded a patent) on the time it was allegedly invented. The challenger presents what’s referred to as “prior artwork,” that’s, materials recognized to the general public earlier than the alleged invention. The challenger makes use of the prior artwork to indicate that the patent’s claims weren’t new or non-obvious when the appliance was filed. A patent proprietor is then given the prospect to indicate why they’re entitled to a patent.
Right here is declare 10 of the ‘155 patent, one of many claims challenged by the defendants:
10. A way of offering printing and publishing companies to a distant consumer in actual time utilizing a communication community, the tactic comprising:
storing information on a pc server, the information containing data relating to photographs, textual content, artwork, and knowledge;
offering mentioned information to a distant consumer for the designing of a web page format;
producing a conveyable doc format (PDF) file from the designed web page format;
producing a plate-ready file from mentioned PDF file; and
offering mentioned plate-ready file to a distant printer.
This is how the Patent Workplace presiding over the IPR described [PDF] declare 10:
Declare 10 is drawn to a way that requires: (1) storing information; (2) offering the information to a distant consumer for designing a web page format; (three) producing a PDF from the designed web page format; (four) producing a “plate-ready file” from the PDF; and (5) offering the plate-ready file to a distant printer.
In an effort to present that this declare ought to be cancelled, the challenger relied on a number of items of prior artwork to indicate that declare 10 of the ‘155 patent was apparent.
Through the IPR, the events usually didn’t dispute that steps (1)-(four) have been disclosed by the prior artwork. The one dispute famous by the Patent Workplace about what was disclosed by one specific prior artwork mixture generally known as “Dorfman and Apogee” was whether or not sending a file to a distant printer (step (5)) was new or non-obvious. The Patent Workplace initially found [PDF] that though the prior artwork disclosed all the opposite elements of the alleged invention, the prior artwork did not disclose sending information to a distant printer. That was sufficient to rule that declare 10 was new and non-obvious, and in favor of the patent proprietor.
We do not assume that minor distinction from the prior artwork ought to matter. The ‘155 patent would not declare to have invented tips on how to ship information to a distant printer (nor could it in 1999, as a fast search reveals). Such a trivial change should not permit somebody to say a monopoly, particularly when everybody was doing issues “on the Web” in 1999. Because of this, this patent is worthy of our award.
Happily, the Patent Workplace changed its mind [PDF] on the patentability of declare 10 and sending information remotely, after the challenger identified that the prior artwork did disclose doing precisely that. In January 2017, the Patent Workplace dominated that declare 10, in addition to claims 11-7, 19 & 20, ought to be cancelled, and CTP didn’t enchantment that call.
Because of IPR, CTP can not use lots of the claims of the ‘155 patent to sue others. Certainly, it doesn’t seem that CTP has introduced go well with in opposition to the 200 events it threatened to sue.
IPR is presently going through an existential menace: the Supreme Courtroom is presently deciding whether or not it’s constitutional for the Patent Workplace to double-check its work after a patent has issued. We think it is. As this brief story reveals, the Patent Workplace generally misses issues within the prior artwork, and unsurprisingly then, typically permits patents that it should not. The general public ought to have the ability to level out these errors to the Patent Workplace and never must pay patent house owners for issues that rightfully belong to the general public.
Republished from the EFF’s Stupid Patent of the Month collection.